Whoever decided to name the venue The Box nailed it with just about the most literal description of the structure imaginable.
Located near Amsterdam Sloterdijk station, in a seemingly endless industrial estate running parallel to the railway tracks, the club looks from the outside like a big black aircraft hangar.
Inside, it also looks like a big black aircraft hangar — albeit one that has been fitted out with a long bar, a big stage and catwalk, lighting rigs and a sound system.
I wouldn’t describe it, architecturally, as an intrinsically atmospheric place. But as I would soon discover, what the internal layout lacks in charm, it is able to make up for with the kind of hi-tech visual and aural magicking laid on by the best of today’s high-end dance-club venues.
And that is very much the direction Unleashed events are coming from.
It’s not just that Unleashed’s organisers aim to create a space for people who like to dress up sexily and dance. They have also imported the kind of slick production values associated with the grander nightspots of Europe’s clubbing capitals.
Combine this with the alt/fetish/bdsm eroticism that characterises Unleashed shows, and with the typical Dutch clubber’s prescription for a sexy night out, and you get a hybrid event with probably few direct equivalents elsewhere on the fetish partying scene.
Of course, this combination is not to all fetish tastes. I’m pretty sure, for example, that anyone who maintains that Torture Garden is ‘not a real fetish club’ would have felt even more adrift at the Unleashed 5th Birthday Party.
Some fetish folk might also have found it a bit too ‘swingery’ for their sensibilities.
At the Box, there was certainly more overtly sexual exhibitionism (as opposed to dressed-up exhibitionism) in evidence. Not to mention, as the evening wore on, more public copulating than you’d see at a London fetish event!
But anyone who has spent any time at Netherlands parties will know that such behaviour is pretty much par for the course. It goes with the territory, and it’s quite a challenge for any Dutch promoter to host a viable fetish event that excludes it, should they so wish.
At least all those loved-up ravers make a friendly and in my experience fairly harmless crowd. You might get an elbow in the ribs from someone enthusiastically shagging his partner against the front of the stage — but at least it will have been unintentional.
A number of them were modelling (like Dutch Dame), part of the production team (like stage manager Xander Hoose) or otherwise working (like my favourite doorbitch Susan).
Others that I frequently see at Dutch and German events, such as Lara Aimée, Ellen Lovebite, Miss Mirjana, Karen QT and Hans, Ronald Pony, Yggy Dra Sil and Mew-Chiel photographer Michiel Kivits, were primarily there to check out the new venue and to party.
And of course I mustn’t neglect to mention jetsetter Ian Dutton, whose presence at the Unleashed 5th Birthday party literally rubber-stamped it as an international-level event!
True, the proper pervs were outnumbered by the part-timers, but you find a similar situation at a large Torture Garden night too.
Given that I’m now fairly accustomed to Dutch audiences’ partying habits, one of the most distinctive aspects of the Unleashed 5th Birthday party for me was not the crowd, but the presentation of the entertainment.
Since this was my first Unleashed (and one for which all the stops had plainly been pulled out), I can’t say from personal experience how their smaller events compare.
But a particularly notable aspect of this event was just how much stuff was happening onstage — both on the video wall and in live performances.
Once things started with the first appearances of Fuel Girls Naomi French and Sasha Flexy at around 11.30pm, the performances onstage seemed to happen virtually back-to-back.
Fetish party promoters whose events attract a dance crowd often cite the difficulty of getting the balance right with the shows they put on.
Dance crowds, they know, are famously resistant to having their internal rhythms disrupted by the changes of pace and focus that shows impose.
So perhaps the smartest solution really is to have so much onstage action that it is perceived as a constant presence, almost like 3D wallpaper, rather than as an interruption.
I couldn’t help but be impressed by how seamlessly the acts’ individual performance music was integrated into the overall soundtrack of the night.
Click previews below for Fuel Girls and Fashion shows. More Performer and People pix on page 2!